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When Your Toddler Starts Saying "No!"

Many 1st time parents describe a shift in their child that looks something like this:

“My child was really pretty easy going and so sweet. We spent lots of time having fun together and I just don’t know what happened! Now anything I ask of my child, they just yell, “No!” What am I supposed to do??”

First off, please know you’re not alone! Parenting small humans through their various phases of brain development can be exhausting.


But there is some good to be found among the confusing and frustrating.


  1. Children are biologically wired to become independent entities eventually. They begin that process by recognizing that they have their own will outside of their parents. At first, that’s a weird and confusing feeling and they have to test out their new “powers” with the often used, “No!”

  2. Learning how to disagree appropriately is a skill, an extremely important skill, and they learn how to do it by practicing doing it. They’ll get it wrong at first, almost every time, but they become more skilled with your modeling and guidance.

  3. Most of us were not raised to understand how to have conflict safely. As a result, when we are adults, we then over or under-react, or we assume other’s intentions and hidden meanings, or we feel like we have to just keep the peace and we’re afraid to speak our truth. Allowing your kids to say no means they will be healthier adults, able to approach conflict with compassion and confidence. What a gift!


What if you can’t just give your child what they want?

  1. Rest assured, allowing the “no” does NOT mean giving your kids whatever they want. That would be permissive parenting and that’s not good for parents or kids!

  2. Especially when it comes to health and safety, you absolutely have to hold the line. Their “no” doesn’t change that.

  3. AND you can do so with empathy and confidence. “I hear you do NOT want to do this.” If they are melting down, give them words for their feelings, “You’re feeling very angry.” “This is hard for you right now, I will help you.”


In short, it’s good to let your kids say no. It is not a threat to you or your parenting authority. It is a valuable part of child development and an invitation to educate and model for your kids. Lean in, it’s worth it! (Watch our video to learn even more!)





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